googlef87758e9b6df9bec.html A Sure Word: Revelation 13:18: What is the Number of the Beast?

Friday, August 13, 2010

Revelation 13:18: What is the Number of the Beast?

“And he causeth all, the small and the great, and the rich and the poor, and the free and the bond, that there be given them a mark on their right hand, or upon their forehead; and that no man should be able to buy or to sell, save he that hath the mark, even the name of the beast or the number of his name. Here is wisdom. He that hath understanding, let him count the number of the beast; for it is the number of a man: and his number is Six hundred and sixty and six.” Revelation 13:16-18

This passage has been an enigma to those who study the Bible. What is the number, 666? What does it represent? Who does it represent? I certainly would not be able to unravel what has confounded scholars for centuries nor will I try. Instead, I only hope to bring to your attention another point to be considered in the debate.

I wish to draw particular attention to v. 18b. In the KJV it reads, “Let him that hath understanding count the number of the beast: for it is the number of a man;” Note the use of the indefinite article, “a man.” Most mainstream translations render this the same way.

One of the many differences between Greek and English is that Greek lacks an indefinite article. In English, the definite article is “the” and the indefinite article is “a”. In Greek, nouns will either have a definite article (ὁ, ἡ, or τό ) or it will have no article. Greek nouns lacking an article are called anarthrous nouns.

To our English thinking minds, nouns lacking a definite article should be indefinite by default. It's seems only common sense. However, in the following example we can see how this is not necessarily the case: “For the Son of Man is Lord of the Sabbath” (Matthew 12:8). The word “Lord” in this sentence lacks any article but certainly Jesus is not “a Lord” of the Sabbath, as though there any others. He is THE Lord of the Sabbath. Even without an article we can be sure the word “Lord” is definite.

One reason the Greek language prospered so long without an indefinite article is that there wasn't much of a demand for one. Certainly indefinite nouns existed but it would be wrong to assume that anarthrous nouns are automatically indefinite. Quite the opposite is true. If a Greek noun lacks an article, it should assumed to be definite unless context absolutely demands it.

There are many cases where the Greek lacks the definite article and we are forced to insert one into our English translations. Consider John 1:1, “In [the] beginning was the Word.” The word “beginning” (ἀρχή) in this verse in anarthrous but certainly there aren't any other beginnings so it would not be appropriate to say “a beginning.” Neither does it make sense in English to omit the article: “In beginning...” Thus, we insert the word, “the”.

Sometimes, though, we insert the indefinite article when we ought not. In the New World Translation, which denies the deity of Christ, the indefinite article is inserted before the anarthrous word for “God” (θεός) in John 1:1c: “the word was a god.” They argue, amateurishly, that since it lacks an article then it is indefinite. We've already seen why that isn't necessarily so.

Keeping these things in mind, let us consider Revelation 13:18. In the latter part of the verse, the word “man” is anarthrous. The question must be asked: should we add the indefinite article? Perhaps instead of saying, “it is the number of a man” it should read, “it is the number of man.” In other words, perhaps the number 666 is not the number of a particular man but is the number representing mankind. What a difference a single letter can make.

I think the beast described here in Revelation is a real person who will rise to power sometime in the future. Instead of searching for some numerical value in his name which reveals his identity (as some have done with villains of the past such as Nero), the Bible is merely telling us that this character will be an iconic representative of mankind. He may seem powerful. Some may worship him like a god. He may even want to be God. But he isn't God. However impressive this person will be, his name is still numbered among men.

As I have said, I don't hope to unravel the mystery of who this person is. I merely want to give some more food for thought about the subject.

Further reading:

John 1:1c: "Is the Word "God" or "a god"?

Revelation 3:11: Taking Our Crown

Revelation 17: Is the Harlot of Babylon the Catholic Church?


JohnOneOne said...

Regarding Jehovah's Witnesses' "New World Translation" Bible and its rendering of John 1:1, it may interest you to know that there is soon to be published an 18+ year research project (as of 08/2010) in support and explanation of their wording of this verse entitled, "What About John 1:1?"

To learn more of its design and expected release date, we invite you to visit:

Agape, JohnOneOne.

JohnOneOne said...

Within the above, it is said:

"In the New World Translation, which denies the deity of Christ, the indefinite article is inserted before the anarthrous word for “God” (θεός) in John 1:1c: “the word was a god.” They argue, amateurishly, that since it lacks an article then it is indefinite."


As can be witnessed above, many who take issue with Jehovah's Witnesses' "New World Translation" of 'theos' in John 1:1c (as, "a god") often miss the point that the structure of this clause is 'a singular anarthrous predicate noun (meaning, without the Greek definite article), but one which is also *preceding the verb and subject noun (implied or stated)*' - that is, not just that use of the noun 'theos' in the third clause is lacking the Greek definite article.

Quite interestingly, there other places within the "New Testament" where the syntax (Greek word order) is the same as that found within John 1:1c, and here, it is not uncommon to read where the English indefinite article has been added by most Bible translators (either with an "a" or "an"). You may wish to examine the following within your own preferred translation(s) of the Bible, that is, to see whether, within those works, such had actually been done. From just the Gospel of John, here are but a few examples:

John 4:19
John 6:70
John 8:44a
John 8:44b
John 9:17
John 10:1
John 10:13
John 10:33
John 12:6

At John 1:1c, wherein we encounter this very same Greek grammatical construction, it is easy to see where many Trinitarian influenced translators have not, themselves, been consistent, that is, in following the same syntactical guideline as practiced by them within the above verses.

Obviously, there need be more evidence to substantiate such a rendering as, "and the Word was a god," as well as to address many of the other issues often raised by such wording. This is just a number of the many points we hope to address within our forthcoming work, "What About John 1:1?"

Again, to discover something of its design and progress, you are cordially invited to visit:

Agape, JohnOneOne.